One of the most difficult things to get right as a parent is communicating with the little darlings.
When does no really mean no? Or how do you discreetly get to the bottom of what is bugging a child without causing any unnecessary alarm?
And perhaps the trickiest skill, how do you convey the true danger of a situation without scaring them so much that you inhibit their innocent thirst for life?
But it is when a subject pricks their interest so much they feel compelled to look up from their handheld device and ask ‘why?’ that the real challenge begins. Why is a question that has been asked by children more than ever since the mass killings in Paris, which sent shockwaves across the world and united it, for the time being at least, in the battle against terrorism.
If our house is anything to go by, radios or TVs were tuned in almost exclusively to the news in the days after 129 people were gunned down in a series of attacks on one of the world’s great cities.
It was a news event which meant even Tracy Beaker had to take a back seat and allow the likes of Messrs Bradby, Edwards and Humphrys to guide us through a miserable, almost surreal weekend.
Like many of my peers, I was soon asked: “Daddy, what’s an atrocity and why has it happened in Paris?”
Obviously my initial response was inadequate as I was hit with the supplementary question: “Why did the bad men do it?” Momentarily I was struck by fear by the realisation that I may have to embark on a potted history of international politics or explain what a caliphate is or that these monsters throw homosexuals (a whole new set of questions right there) off tall buildings.
But I didn’t, I responded: “Because they don’t like the way we live our lives.” I regretted it as this shouldn’t make sense to a six-year-old. There was a look of incredulity followed by a sigh before she returned to the task in hand – a hand-drawn family portrait complete with daddy’s comedy-sized belly.
Should I be concerned that my over-simplified explanation to one of the most appalling losses of life in living memory was accepted at face value? Then it dawned on me that it was I who had learned something as there can never be any justification or complicated explanation as to why something as horrific as the slaughter in Paris took place.
These people are bad and they did a very bad thing. Sometimes it takes a child to bring clarity to a seemingly complex situation.